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The Last Full Measure

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    I updated to a ‘Paperwhite‘ Kindle. I’m currently transferring my books. Now I don’t have to find a light every time I want to read.. just my glasses.
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David And Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David And Goliath

David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
What are advantages?
What is the inverted U-shaped curve?
And why was David’s defeat of Goliath NOT surprising?
Gladwell, has written another page turner. Not only did I enjoy the stories- although some were very gruesome indeed, but I also appreciated how the theme of the book fit with “AntiFragile” and my interest in Systems and Complexity.
There are three sections to the book: The Advantages of Disadvantages (and the Disadvantages of Advantages), The Theory of Desirable Difficulty, and The Limities of Power. I even found the Notes in the Addendum are interesting.

320 pages

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The Day The World Discovered The Sun by Mark Anderson

The Day The World Discovered The Sun

The Day The World Discovered The Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus
I viewed and photographed the 2012 Venus transit, so this book caught my attention. It  deals with the 1761 and 1769 Venus transit of the sun. Why was this important? In 1761, little was known about our world; even less about our solar system. By using some careful measurements of angles, timing the transit, and some complex trigonometry, scientists of the day could measure the distance to the Sun and all the visible planets. Those who were enlightened at the time, including a couple monarchs, became quite excited by the prospect. There was a friendly competition between the countries. Yet it was far more difficult that it sounds. Travel was a dangerous proposition at best and the tools for measuring time were far from accurate. Anderson has written an enjoyable book, filled with adventure, science, and history.

304 pages

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Dear Boy by Tony Fletcher

Dear Boy

Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon
It’s been 32-years since I read “Full Moon” by Dougal Butler, plenty of time to revisit Keith Moon, drummer for my favorite rock band The Who. Fletcher’s book is more detailed and deeply researched, but Butler’s book is more of a memoir as he was Keith’s friend, companion and chauffeur through out much of the drummer’s career with The Who. I’ve been reading Chris Charlesworth’s blog: just backdated. Charlesworth was an editor of “Dear Boy” and mentions it repeatedly in his highly readable music blog, so I thought I would give it a read.

It’s a pretty good read, but it does come across as the work of a fan and not a researcher. There is too much editorializing, and Fletcher gives the benefit of the doubt to Moon at every turn. Now that I’m older the stories are no longer funny, only sad. Moon was the perfect drummer for the Who (at least in the early years) but he is far from a great drummer. I doubt few bands could deal with his energy or intensity. Off stage his friendly personality traits were swamped by the monster he became as he abused alcohol, drugs, sex, money, and relationships. His death was almost a forgone conclusion. I like to think if he were around today, at the same age, mental health professionals could have treated his underlying ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ and found treatment for his substances abuse.

632 pages

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Winter Of The World by Ken Follett

Winter Of The World

I think I’m going to have to create a special list for Ken Follett books.  I’m going to call it “Books I hate and love at the same time.”  On the one hand, he writes a darn entertaining novel.  In spite of it’s nearly 1,000 pages, the pages turn quickly and I was reluctant to put it down.  On the other hand, Follett really burns me with his too modern characters and inaccurate depictions of history.  When you start yelling “Are you kidding me?” and complain about the author to your family members (while still being unable to walk away from the book), you know you have a love/hate relationship.

What follows might constitute spoilers for the book, although they are small and don’t give away any big surprises.  However, if you want to read the book without knowing anything about it beforehand, by all means, stop here.  If you want to hear my complaints about Follett, keep reading.

Winter of the World is Follett’s sequel to Fall of Giants, an epic story that follows English, American and Russian families through the Great War in the first book, and now World War II in the second.  Lady Maud has married a German at the end of Fall of Giants, so now we have her family’s storyline taking place in Nazi Germany during World War II.

The heroes of Follett’s book are all Socialists, who appear to hate democratic conservatives, Fascists and Communists equally.  The author props up Roosevelt and alludes to his problems as being the fault of conservatives.  In one early chapter Woody DeWar defends Roosevelt’s decision not to support the anti-lynching bill by saying he needed Congressional support for the New Deal.  All around this scene is dialogue like “damn Conservatives!” and trashing of the Republicans.  A person not acquainted with history would assume that it was conservative members of Congress that were preventing Roosevelt from signing the bill, when in fact it was southern Democrats.  The bill was introduced by a Republican and had broad conservative support.

Later, when the United States enters into World War II,  two of the main American characters decide to join the military because they want to help in the war effort.  But, neither of them want to fight.  They both want desk jobs.  This sounds like a modern left-leaning American to me.  I’ve read far to many autobiographies and biographies from World War II veterans, and the one thing they have in common is they all want to fight.  In fact, the ones that were assigned desk jobs complained bitterly and tried anything they could to be sent overseas.

And let’s look at Lady Maud and her German family.  Her daughter, Carla, helped to spy for the Russians and when the war ended and they found themselves in the Russian sector of Berlin, Carla was raped and their family was left to starve.  In non-fiction books I have read, the Russians treated well those that refused to join the Nazi party.  They were given jobs and food.  I can’t imagine that this family would not have immediately confessed their espionage activities to the Russians in the hopes of better treatment.  Better yet, why didn’t they go back to England?  Follett uses the excuse that the Earl disowned his sister because she married a German,  but he certainly wasn’t her only family member, and Lady Maud is British.  For sure, Maud and her family would have left Germany.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I’m not sure if I’ll read the third part of this trilogy, Edge of Eternity (which is due to hit the bookshelves on September 16th).  I’ll have to carefully read a few reviews first to see what direction Follett is taking this novel.  It’s likely to deal with more recent history, and that might make me even angrier if he continues to revise history like he has in his previous books.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012
940 pages

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The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

The Black Echo

The Black Echo: Harry Bosch #1
This is Connelly’s first book featuring LAPD Det. Harry Bosch. The story begins when Bosch responds to a call of a dead man in a tunnel. Harry recognizes the man as fellow Vietnam Veteran who served with Harry in the U.S. Army as a ‘Tunnel Rat’. Harry becomes convince it wasn’t a simple overdose and starts uncovering a conspiracy. Connelly makes sure his characters are fleshed out, the story reads easily, and the plot was a really page turner.

484 pages

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The Time Traveler’s Guide To Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

The Time Traveller's Guide To Medieval England

Wow, this was not only an informative book to read, but a fun one as well!  For anyone who loves historical fiction as much as I do, discovering new insights into the past is just as entertaining as a good story.  The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England has much to offer.

We learn the life expectancy is much shorter in the 14th century.  Throw in the Plague, and you have half of the population under 21 years of age.

When you consider that societies with youthful populations are more violent, tend to be supportive of slavery, and see nothing wrong with holding brutal combats in which men fight to the death for the sake of entertainment, you realize that society has changed fundamentally.

The book goes on to describe the types of people who live in the 14th century, the class system, the work, and how they conduct their economy.  I found of particular interest the clothing, as advances technology allowed for buttons and different fabrics, (not to mention foreign trade, which introduced fashions from abroad) which changed the clothing dramatically.  From a loose tunic in the early century, clothing styles changed greatly to be more form-fitting, with shorter hemlines for the men.

No wonder monastic chroniclers feel obliged to pass comment; they blame the men for displaying very short skirts and well-packed hose, and they blame the women for being delighted by what they see.

It certainly gives credence to the saying “what goes around, comes around,” doesn’t it?

Other chapters in the book cover subjects such as traveling, where to stay, and what people eat and drink in that era.  Imagine you are a weary traveler, and need to find an inn for the night.  Mortimer lets you know that if you are not on horseback, you don’t stand a chance of getting a room.  If you have a horse,  and are lucky enough to secure a room, you will find several beds in each room, and you will share your bed with one or more persons.

And don’t get me started on health, hygiene and medicine.  Let’s just say that if the disease doesn’t kill you, the remedies of dung beetles, crickets and bats heads aren’t likely to make things any better.  Can a person die from being overly grossed out?  I’m sure that would have happened to me had I been subjected to 14th century medical practices.

There’s much more, but I’ll leave that for you to read yourself.   At times the information was a little dry – as when Mortimer discusses the landscape and seafaring vessels, so I’m taking off a half star for the sleepy passages.

3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2008
342 pages

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Blood Feud by Edward Klein

Blood Feud

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas
I was feeling frustrated with the Obama administration and was hoping this book might make me feel better or least give me something to laugh at. I knew it would be gossipy, and it was, but it wasn’t fun. I found both the Obamas and Clintons equally unlikable, but for differing reason.

Klein snoops around for stories and repeats old stories to illustrate the hatred that flows between the two leading families of the Democratic Party. It’s hard to believe these people are running our country and not crime syndicates. Klein seems to go out of his way to put Hillary, and in particularly Bill Clinton in a  favorable light. I don’t see it. Or maybe the friends of the Obama’s are more tight lipped.

The Clintons and Obamas collide in the 2008 Primaries, the 2012 Election, and the future 2016 Election. Bill hates being ‘played‘ but that is how the Obamas operate. Klein reinforces the idea that Barack’s adviser Valerie Jarrett has been holding the reins of the presidency since Obama was elected. My favorite story was Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg asking Hillary for tips, as Caroline was picked to be ambassador to Japan. As the former Secretary of State, Hillary tells her- Caroline won’t be taking instruction from the State Department. No. The Obama administration runs foreign policy from the White House, from Jarrett’s office. Klein serves up gossip on Bill’s poor health and questions Hillary’s health and her desire to run for the Presidency in 2016.  Klein paints Bill as a ‘Horn Dog’ still and explains Hillary and Bill have an understanding. We learn that Bill is grooming Chelsea Clinton to take over his reins in the family business. Not to run for office but to pressure her mother toward the White House if he dies before the election.
I don’t necessarily believe anything I read in this book, but as I watch the news, Klein’s writing seems to paint an accurate picture of the Clinton and the Obama Administrations.

320 pages

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